Local fishermen navigate through the Marshland of Barbacoas in the mouth of the Magdalena River Basin in Antioquia, Colombia. © Juan Arredondo

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Ecosystem-based Adaptation for Communities in the Wetlands of the Magdalena River Basin

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The Magdalena River Basin has historically been depleted to support economic development, causing significant impacts to the environment. In addition, the basin is highly vulnerable to extreme climate events, as shown by the floods caused by La Niña in 2010 and 2011, which affected over 2.2 million people mainly in the floodplain areas. It is expected that extreme climate events will be stronger and more intense due to climate change. For this reason, it is important to improve and maintain the crucial services that the freshwater systems of this basin provide to the Colombian population, by making it more resilient and adaptable to climate variability and climate change.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), along with other partners including the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), Colombia's Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, Colombia's Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies, and Fundación Alma, is leading a project in Colombia that implements ecosystem-based adaptation measures in the wetlands and floodplain areas of the country’s most important river: the Magdalena. The project is also working with local communities and environmental authorities in the Magdalena River Basin, which covers 24% of the national territory and about 32.5 million people, or 77% of the country’s population.

The project, which was implemented in September 2015 and ends in June 2019, supports the Colombian environmental authorities at a national, regional and local level in integrated river basin management. This process helps maximize the economic and social benefits of the Magdalena River, while preserving and restoring its ecosystems. Also, the project promotes ecosystem-based adaptation measures in public planning and long-term economic management efforts.

This is a significant achievement for Colombia in preventing serious socioeconomic losses caused by climate change and maintaining a more resilient river ecosystem for both the people and nature of the Magdalena River Basin.

Changing ways of life in the Magdalena River Basin Ecosystem-based Adaptation measures to mitigate communities' vulnerability to climate change are the core of TNC Colombia's Infrastructure project in the Magdalena River Basin.